Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Reclaiming Life After Being Estranged - A Healing Story Part 2

There is a writer, Joshua Coleman that proposes that it is the parent that can bring about the healing of the family rift.  He is a psychologist and I did read his work. He proposes that all that is required is an apology and a willingness to take all the blame and happiness is the end result.  Communicate and accept that it is all your fault and the rift will be healed!

At one point I did "buy" what he was selling.   I did the apology! As a matter of fact I wrote several heartfelt letters of apology accepting the blame for everything that ever went wrong and a willingness to try to start over!

They got me zero response! 

All I got was still more silent treatment. I was not abject enough I guess. Maybe I did not prostate myself at her feet enough!  Possibly I did not totally humiliate myself enough.  Bottom line, in her estimation, even my apology was "not good enough!"  I was once again a failure. 

I anguished and it hurt incredibly to write these  letters, taking and accepting all the blame for everything that I inadvertently did wrong ever in her life. 
I humbled myself to accept all my faults, real, imagined known and unknown.  Whatever fault there was in leading to her feeling the way she did I was willing to accept all the blame. I was willing to ask for forgiveness for every sin real or imagined she conceived me to be guilty of.  And, for this I was once again slapped in the face with the rejection of silence.

And in that silence I started to have new thoughts and new insights.  In that silence there started the seeds of the big revelations that unfolded before me.

You see, the problem was that in doing this apology exercise, in taking all the blame upon mself, I felt even worse about myself.  

Not only was I an estranged parent, I was now totally stripped of all self-esteem and self-worth.  I was this total nobody.  A failure as a parent.  I had failed as a human being.  I was a failure.  I even failed to make an acceptable adequate apology!  I was a complete utter total failure. 

And in facing these feelings, totally devastated, I approached the darkest days of my life.

I did not care if I lived or died. In fact I almost died.  I was distracted with my sorrow and did not see an oncoming vehicle and I was hit.  I could have been killed!

And in that moment of walking away from that almost terminal accident I realized something vital, that I wanted to live! And I realized that in order to do that I had to reclaim my self-esteem.

I stated analyzing things differently.  I looked at my apology and realized that in taking all the blame I was absolving my estranging daughter of her guilt for the actions that she took.  In making her right, I was I was saying that her actions were acceptable and that I somehow deserved to be treated this way for my failures.

And then the thought exploded into my mind.  She is not right, her actions are not okay!   And I should not have to demean myself to win her approval.

No one has that right over me! 

No one has the right to force me to walk on bended knee in total humiliation to attempt to make someone else feel good and powerful.

No one has the right to destroy my self-respect so they can feel superior. 

No one has the right to demand my respect without giving me respect in return.  No one!  Not even my daughter.

It was then that I started taking back my human dignity and now I will let no one take that away from me. Never again! 

I am as worthy as my daughter is of being treated with respect and kindness and consideration.  I will not grovel and beg for what is my right as a human being. I will not take the role of second class citizen to make anyone else, even my daughter, feel superior.

That was the turning point in my life after estrangement.

Now, I will only own up to the mistakes I truly believe that I have made.   I know for example, I failed to teach enough about morality and socially acceptable constraints on self-aggrandizement.  I followed the advice of good old Dr. Spock to teach self-esteem but I forgot to balance that with teaching that it is also vital to appreciate the value of others and to respect their esteem

The reality is that because of my failure to teach this balance, my daughter learnt to feel that she is superior to others and deserves better treatment than others.  She feels she is better than me and that she is entitled to my groveling.  She feels that I ought to worship her regardless of how badly she treats me.

I do totally accept responsibility for this failure!  
Yes, I will even apologize for this!

However I do not apologize for her behaviour as a result of her grandiose beliefs in herself.   She is accountable for her behaviour and her own choices.  She has to be accountable for her bullying and manipulative tactics. She is responsible for the lies she has told about me behind my back.

Once I started to change my perspective on what I need to be apologetic for, I started to find peace.  

A deep inner peace that comes from knowing I did my best as a parent, with the information I had.
  I was the best parent I knew how to be with the resources I had available. 
I may have made mistakes, but they were neither intentional nor were they made with malice or evil intent or forethought to cause harm!
  They were simple human errors made by a human trying hard to do right.

I can no longer beleaguer myself into saying I need to do more.  I have done more and then more, and then some more, and then even some more; and that only got me disrespect, put downs, name calling, shunning and rejection.

Now I will respect myself first and foremost and my apologies will reflect this.  I will never ever again apologize for the sake of apologizing, nor will I take  the blame for things that I am not accountable for.

Now I reclaim my rights to be treated with respect.  I will no longer eat crow just for the sake of eating crow.

I am a good person.  I deserve to be treated well.  I deserve to be respected and I will not accept less than what I deserve.  And if the consequence of this is that I will not have my daughter in my be it.

It is more important to have my self-respect than to have such a demanding and inconsiderate person in my life.  It is more important that I feel good about myself than to allow a demeaning person to continually tear me down.  No one has the right to take my dignity away from me. 

Sure it would be nice to have a relationship with my daughter.  However, I am no longer willing to do so at the expense of my self-esteem, my dignity, my self-worth.  

A relationship is built on equality.  I will not give respect to a person who disrespects me.  Respect must be a two way street or there is no relationship.  I will no longer allow myself to be dominated, browbeaten, subjugated or coerced.

After more than five years there is a whole lot of water under the bridge. There were a whole lot of missed opportunities to reply to apologies, to reconnect.  Opportunities my daughter did not grasp as she continued to punish with the emotional abuse of rejection and silent treatment.

One day, not too long ago, I decided to look up what jail sentences were for various crimes.  I discovered that "violent crimes" are the only ones with 5 or more years of incarceration!    So punishing a parent for the failure in parenting is equal to a violent crime!?   I don't think so!  And this does not even address the fact that criminals are given trials and defense lawyers.  

I don’t see my estranging daughter doing anything towards creating a solution.  What has been her contribution toward communication or resolution?  

She has demanded.  
She has tried to manipulate me with ultimatums.  
She has slandered my name and defamed my character. 

Where is her willingness to apologize for those actions?  Those actions were not based on anything that I did or did not do as a parent.  How does she justify those deeds? 

In the movie "The Big Easy", there is a scene where Anne Osborne turns to Remy and says, “Why don't you just face it, Remy? You're not one of the good guys anymore.”

And this is what I want to say to my daughter, “After the way you have treated me, face it, you’re not one of the good guys anymore”.

So now, as part of my healing journey, I post what I feel.  
I have nothing to hide! 
I will not be shamed into feeling guilt anymore. 
I will not take blame for things I did not do.

I did not do anything so horrific as to warrant this kind of treatment.   If you have a problem with me, face me and say to my face what is wrong.  Allow me to defend my honour! Don't go shaming me and vilifying me and trashing me behind my back!  That is not right.

I pronounce that I too have my rights!

I have the right to be treated fairly.

I have the right to a defense.

I have the right to be respected.

I do not deserve to be treated abusively, to be lied about, to be rejected, to be unheard. 

People can and do chose sides. Most have already done so based on hearing only one side of the story, hers.   They did not even feel I was important enough to be given an opportunity to voice my side of the story! 

I now know I have nothing that I can say that will change their minds any more than I can change the mind of my daughter into seeing that her course of actions were wrong.  Having lost it all, I have nothing left to lose. And in knowing that fact, I have gained great strength.  I have learnt that I can survive rejection and abandonment!

And since I have nothing left to lose, I find that I have lost the fear of loss as well!

This knowledge has given me the freedom and the strength to embrace the reality of my life as it is now. 

This understanding has liberated me.

I am free to voice my opinions. 

I am at liberty to express what I feel is my truth. 

This is healing, and that is the journey that I am on. 

Renate Dundys Marrello
2015 - 01 - 14


  1. This is wonderfully written. Thank you for articulating what I have needed and wanted to say to my adult son and my adult daughter.

  2. Perfect! I have walked the same path of degradation and humiliation. But no more. Thank you for your wonderful blog!

  3. Renate, I am so sorry for the rejection you faced. I would have been incredibly blessed if my mother offered the same apology you gave to your daughter. My whole life I have been waiting for that gift, and it never came. In my own opinion, your daughter does not realize how lucky she is to have a mother that cared and loved her enough to be humble and apologize. I would have welcomed your apology with open arms. What she did to you, it was a true slap in the face. You didn't deserve to be treated like that. I too, have humbly apologized to others in my life, only to get the cold shoulder in return. There is nothing worse. You did your part. You are free from judgement. The rest is on her shoulders. God promised to make every thing work out for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purposes. So however God uses this in your life for good...rejoice. I know God is also referred to as our healer. So weather it is physical or emotional healing we need...He is faithful. He can and will heal your heart..just give it time. There is a time to every purpose under heaven. The rest of the chapters are on her shoulders now.

  4. BFSG: What a beautiful comment in the darkest of days. You have given me hope and good cheer. Thank you for this wonderful reminder, and I ask God to "show us The Way." Gracias, Amen.

  5. Wow that is so truthfully profound. I went thru the same thing and have reached the same place. Thank you and big hugs.

  6. I have sponsored 24 students for 2 years in school, in my estranged son's name. If and when he ever decides to "come back" I will welcome him with open arms. Until then, I have begged God to help me drop the mantle of shame and blame that kept me prisoner, blaming myself.

    Now that I live in a country in Central America with a different culture, of pardon, patience and prayer, where children are expected to "do right" and respect their parents and not drink and not drug and be responsible, and the mother is NOT blamed for the adult child's actions, what a difference has occurred! Here, other people urge me to "pray for my son" and that is what we all do, and I can't imagine how dark my days used to be. Now, when I am feeling sad or dejected or hopeless, I can think about how much I love him and hope that he is doing well, no matter what he may (not) be doing with me. His rejection is a sign of his on-going unhappiness and I wait patiently for the day when he may want to re-establish contact, but I cherish the peace I have now without the constant conflict. And I NO LONGER BLAME MYSELF. What a difference that has made! I can't believe how much this has changed me. For ten long years I wanted to die, lost in my own hopelessness of "what did I do wrong?"

    Never in a million years did I think that Spock and Freud could do so much damage to us as parents, as I believed heart and soul that if I "loved my son enough" he would be PERFECT and PERFECTLY HAPPY and ALL WOULD BE WELL.

    Little did I know that how we raise our children and how we treat them is only HALF of the EQUATION. People have their own characteristics no matter what we do. I love my son with all my heart and always will. But I cannot change him no matter what I do, or did. Better to help so many who need it and appreciate it, then keep trying to (unconciosly) "buy love" from someone who never loved me.

    If God can love us all and wait for us to come "into the fold" then so can I.

    Dear God please show me The Way.

  7. PS: I come from a family with personality disorders and addictions. Without going into more of this here, I can see that some, if not all, must be passed on genetically. I see it in my own offspring and even though I have been lied about and slandered, my son is not the only one. Having finally gone "no contact" with just about all of my biological family has also greatly contributed to what peace of mind I now have. "They can't hurt me anymore" just because they aren't "who I wish they would be," and they "don't treat me the way I know I should be."

    They are lost in their own milieu. And I am safe and secure in mine. More and more, they have become a distant memory. If I forget, and "take the bait," woe will return. So I guard my peace of mind and forge ahead with people who do know how to "get along" and most of all, WANT TO GET ALONG. Many people don't! And when they don't, it now has no effect on me. Let them live in their world and I will happily, and peacefully, live in mine. And create my own "new family" of like-minded individuals who CARE ABOUT each other and RESPECT EACH OTHER as well. I'm sad about the ones who listen to just one side and never even ask about the other, but those really are not people I want to be a part of. So now I have my own life and they have theirs.

    What a difference has occurred! It's like a long-dormant blossom finally coming to fruition, grown from a spindly stick into a large and healthy tree. And it all came from a seed of "God please help me lift this burden of shame and blame from my shoulders."

    And I don't even go to church.

    They are free to behave any way they want, vote for whoever they want, believe whatever they want. And I am free to be me. And peace has finally reigned in my own house, because it is sinking into my own mind.

    They can't hurt me anymore.

  8. thank you for sharing your inspiring story.

  9. Thank you, Renate, for your inspiring blog!